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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Image courtesty of Visual.ly

Here’s good news, sitting is the new smoking!

You’ve heard these before; 50 is the new 30, Arugula is the new Kale, Skinny jeans are the new little black dress.  But information like we found in this article from the Huffington Post is a little bit scary and not the least bit fun (like 50 being the new 30) ….”Sitting is the New Smoking

Articles like this are enough to strike fear in the hearts of millions of office workers who do their work at a desk.  Our little cubes are often our world.  We spend 8 hours a day at our desk.  Now we are finding out sitting is taking years off our lives.

Being sedentary can lead to all sorts of physical aliments.  Time spent sitting at a desk can increase your risk of having heart disease, colon cancer, muscle degeneration, foggy brain, poor circulation and soft bones.

So what do we do?  Most of us can’t or won’t give up our desks.  We have jobs we love, jobs we need and not every company can retrofit an office.  Here are a few ideas to help get you on your feet more often throughout the day.

Fitness trackers:

They can be as simple as a clip-on pedometer to count steps, to a stylish wrist band that logs every move you make, and how you sleep.

Fitbit, Misfit, Garmin, and jawbone are just a few of the trackers you can get.

I wore a device for a year and learned a lot about my “movement”.  I found that I was much more likely to take some extra steps if I checked in on my device to see where I was at for the day. The tracker I wore also told me my sleep patterns.  Along with not getting enough exercise, poor sleep also adds to the problem.  I found that there were quite a few nights that I woke up and didn’t settle back down into a good deep sleep.

No wonder I am tired a lot of the time!  My fitness tracker helped me understand my sleep patterns and I ended up getting better sleep in the long run.

Stand up Desks: 

Just turn on any morning show, and there seems to be another informative segment about standing while we work.  Personally, I would love to have a standing desk, but it is not for everyone!  As you can see in the article below, there are all sorts of reasons to and not to have a standing desk.  Matt from The desk jockey also makes some very good points to have a standing desk.  He makes a great pitch for the ultimate desk, the Sit/Stand desk.  (--I want one!--)

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you how sitting has influenced how I do things.  When I get up to go to the copier, I try to make it count in terms of “movement”.  I get up and out of my chair as often as possible.  Instead of bending over to put a file in the bottom drawer, I squat down and then come back up to standing.  (that counts as exercise, right?!) I run mail out to the mailbox, rather than put it in the tray at the front desk.  I reach further for the copy paper.  I take every opportunity to stretch.  Whether it’s at my desk, or waiting at the copier, I make sure I try and ease the kinks out of my muscles.  And most of all, I keep moving, moving, moving.  Atrophy is the enemy!

I find it’s the same with my eyes.  The older I get, the more strain I put on my vision.  Eight hours a day, using a computer has enabled me to become a connoisseur of hip reading glasses.  (A girl has to look good!)   Add a smart phone to the mix and I am in a blur, literally.  Thank goodness my smart phone has an app that reminds me to look up and away from my computer every 20 minutes.

Who knew an office job could be so dangerous!

I’m one of the lucky ones.  My cubicle is my home away from home.  I have a boss that lets me have a workspace that inspires me.  I have photos, music and lots of color to take me through each day.  Now if I can just talk him into that Sit/Stand desk, it might be a perfect world!

Blog Written By: Robin Vankleek


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Posted by HSA Admin at 5/7/2015 6:07:00 PM
Monday, June 10, 2013

BMI OutdatedSometimes we like to change up the pace here on our company blog and write about some topics that are a little more focused on health and wellness.  For this week’s blog post, we’re going to tackle the infamous “Body Mass Index” scale, and explain what a useless and outdated formula this truly is on so many different levels.  The fact that some of today’s “experts” even recommend still using this formula to somehow calculate your level of health and fitness is truly appalling, and the quicker we can put an end to this misinformation the better.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is defined as “a measure for human body shape based on an individual's weight and height”, according to Wikipedia.  It was devised around 1830 (yes, almost 200 years ago) and as the definition states above, only uses HEIGHT and WEIGHT to calculate your health and fitness levels, nothing more.  That being the case, let’s take a look at some very important factors it fails to consider: gender, age, body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone density, body type, activity level, diet, family history…just to name a few.

BMI Formula

I suppose it would be one thing if this old formula was just a piece of history we looked back and laughed at, but unfortunately it isn’t.  In fact, it’s recommended by none other than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for gauging your health to this very day.  People seeking out the government’s help because they probably have no real education in health and fitness are being told that a BMI calculator is going to tell them what they need to know.  Here’s an excerpt from our government’s official website on health and fitness:

“Finding out your body mass index (BMI) is the best way to learn if you are at a healthy weight." 

"Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to find out your BMI and what it means for you.”

So what’s the problem? 

Using BMI as the “standard” measure for gauging fitness presents a very large problem, because almost all of the individual results are completely inaccurate due to a total lack of information. The reasons for the inaccuracies typically vary by gender, and create different problems for different reasons based on those outcomes.
 
BMI Body Comparison
For men, the results aren’t accurate or realistic because they tend to say you’re more out of shape than you actually are.  Because it only takes height and weight into account, healthy and athletic men (due to their muscle mass) tend to register as “overweight” and/or “obese”.  Just for fun, let’s take a look at a couple examples of what the BMI considers to be “overweight” and/or “obese” men.
 

Lebron James

Height:  6' 8"

Weight:  250

BMI Rating:  27.9

Classification:  "Overweight"

 Lebron James
 

Ray Lewis

Height:  6' 1"

Weight:  240

BMI Rating:  31.1

Classification:  "Obese"

 Ray Lewis
 
I think we can agree that these people are well-accustomed to the inside of a gym, not to mention all the effort that goes into maintaining their rigorous diet and conditioning training.  Without question they are extremely fit and healthy individuals, which clearly illustrates the BMI has some major flaws in reporting men’s results at a bare minimum.
 
But what about women’s results? 
 
Women’s results tend to be skewed in the opposite direction, which is actually a whole lot scarier than the men’s scenario.  In an interesting twist, the BMI tends to tell women they are healthier than they really are.  In fact, a recent study revealed that 48% of women were misclassified as “normal” using the BMI, when in fact they were “overweight” and/or “obese” when formally tested by a physician. 48 percent!!
 
That is a frightening number, and clearly gives very inaccurate results to the people who need to be made most aware that they should make some healthier choices and start a diet and exercise program to better their health. Take a look at this excellent video clip below that illustrates exactly what we’re talking about in regards to the BMI and how it classifies women’s health:
 

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Because this test is strictly all about height and weight, the problems seem to stem from the old adage (not quite 1830 old…), “muscle weighs more than fat”.  Men tend to carry more muscle mass, which increases their weight on the scale, therefore increasing the likelihood of a miscategorization as “overweight” or “obese”.  Women on the other hand, tend to carry less.  In fact, the less muscle mass one carries, the worse off from a health and fitness standpoint they probably are.  So because women (and especially unhealthy women) tend to carry less, they tend to weigh less, increasing the likelihood of a miscategorization of an overweight or obese person of “normal” or “average”.
 
Muscle vs. Fat
The bottom line, is that the only real way to determine one’s health and fitness level (men or women) is to measure their body fat percentage, which the BMI simply doesn’t do.  As Dr. Eric Braverman stated in the video above, “BMI doesn’t tell you how much fat [or adiposity] you have.  That is the predictor of heart disease, cancer, stroke, gall bladder and fertility problems, depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, etc.”. 
 
The good news, is measuring your body fat percentage is relatively easy to do these days.  In addition to walking into any gym in your area and having yourself tested, you can easily get these measurements in the privacy of your own home.  Here’s a few easy ways to accomplish this:
  • Skin Fold Calipers w/ a Free Online Calculator: Skin fold calipers are inexpensive (about $3) and are very accurate in measuring your body fat percentage when done correctly.  You can use a free online calculator to do the math for you, in addition to showing you how and where to measure.
     
  • Biometric Impedance Analysis: This technology comes with many new bathroom scales, and can also be found in handheld devices.  It’s relatively inexpensive ($20 or so) to get your hands on, and obtains its results by sending a small electric charge through your body and back to the device.  Muscle has a much higher water content than fat, making it much more conductive to electricity.  The more resistance to the charge, the higher the body fat content.  The accuracy is spotty at times, and although it sounds new and great, it’s still not quite as reliable as the good old calipers.
     
  • Anthropometric Measurements: This is arguably the least accurate home method of the three, but is cheap and simple to administer.  Simply grab a cloth measuring tape and measure yourself in several gender-specific locations.  Throw those numbers into a free online calculator, and get a ballpark measurement of your body fat.  The problem with this method however, is that the body fat isn’t directly measured.  It’s an estimation at best.

With all of today’s research, technology and resources available to the general public via the internet, we really need to get away from using simple and outdated formulas like the BMI.  It “over-corrects” for men’s health and fitness levels, labeling healthy men as “overweight” and “obese”.  However, its most prevalent and fatal flaw is how it “under-corrects” for unhealthy women, giving false-negative results to overweight and obese women telling them they’re in the “normal” range.  These test results are skewed in all directions, and for far too many people.

We all know (or should know) that the number one predictor of your overall health and fitness has nothing to do with your height or your weight, and everything to do with your body fat percentage, so spread the word!  The BMI has GOT TO GO, and should immediately be replaced with educational resources leading to information and testing that is accurate and responsible for everyone regardless of age, gender, height or weight.

So let’s all ditch the BMI, grab some calipers, and get happy, healthy and fit for ourselves and for our families!

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Posted by HSA Admin at 6/10/2013 10:28:00 PM
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

American Health Value Staff Spotlight SeriesStaff Spotlight Series: Every now and then we thought we’d spice up our typical posts on HSAs, health insurance & wellness to offer up a better opportunity for all of you out there to get to know all of us here at American Health Value on a more personal level. To that end, we’re creating a series of blog posts called our “Staff Spotlight Series”.

In this first installment, our Customer Service Manager Robin wanted to write a piece about how eating healthy food every once in a while isn’t only good for you, it can be both practical and economical as well. Check it out below!



 Save the Meat

During World War I, the US Food Administration (USFA) urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to help the war effort. Conserving food would support U.S. troops as well as feed populations in Europe where food production and distribution had been disrupted by war.  This time around, Meatless Mondays is brought back as a reminder that meat production can be expensive and sometimes hard on the environment, and unfortunately not always the healthiest choice.   Replace one meal a week with a vegetarian meal.  Save money and reduce your cholesterol!

This week my Vegetarian Times Magazine came in the mail.  It had an article about a week's worth of meals that you can put together, refrigerate or freeze, and be ready for dinner each night without a hassle.  I cook a lot, so I don’t find dinner to be a chore.  I was intrigued however, by the beautiful recipes I saw.   It motivated me to try my meatless week of dinners.

Zucchini Corn Cannelloni
Monday night I made Zucchini Corn Cannelloni.  It was hearty, gooey, and yummy.  No one in my house complained that it was missing meat!  Paired with a spinach salad, it did the job of filling empty bellies.

 

Broiled French Onion Soup
Tuesday night I made Broiled French Onion Soup with homemade whole wheat garlic scallion bread.  I worried that soup would not make a meal, so I added a side of kale salad with mandarins, pepitos (roasted pumpkin seeds) with a chili lime vinaigrette.
 

Veggie Burger

Wednesday we ate pinto bean, mushroom, walnut veggie burgers.  This recipe is a hybrid of many veggie burgers that I have been trying.  I love pinto beans, so they became the basis of the burger.  It is so easy to change up the ingredients in a Veggie Burger, that you can add most anything you want.   I used bread crumbs and a little grape seed oil to bind it together.  I figure, as long as it doesn’t fall apart when you are pan frying it, it’s all good!   I added an Israeli couscous salad on the side.  To the couscous, I added raisins, grape tomatoes, sugar peas, pepitos, and onion.  I finished with an apple cider/grape seed oil/ brown sugar vinaigrette.  Once again, no one complained because there was no meat!

Tofu NoodlesThursday night, I admit I was starting to feel a little bit daunted by the fact that I needed to come up with another vegetarian dish.  As I peered into the refrigerator, checking out my options, I saw that I had bought smoked tofu.   I took the tofu, (my first time trying it, I will definitely use it again!) and cut it into small cubes.  I had some rice noodles in my pantry.  I added sautéed veggies that were in the fridge, with the tofu and topped it all with a lime, brown sugar, ponzu (citrus soy sauce) dressing.
 

Veggie Chili
I rounded off the week on Friday by making
Veggie Chili.  How hard is it?  Just make chili and don’t add the hamburger or chicken.  Make sure you make some corn bread to keep everyone happy!

 

My week of meatless meals turned out to be easy and delicious, and economical!

For the record, I am not vegetarian or vegan.  I don’t endorse any style of eating, except that of using and eating quality, healthy food.  Life is too short to eat bad food!


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Posted by HSA Admin at 3/26/2013 4:50:00 PM
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